Landscape painting, as the name suggests, is an art that concentrates on the natural landscape. One may visually recognize the changes and understand where modern artists find inspiration by reviewing landscape art oil painting history.
An Eastern Heritage of Landscape Art
The depiction of nature has significantly influenced the formation of cultural identities in China and Europe. Landscape paintings (shan shui) have been a persistent component of Chinese culture since the 6th century, while they are relatively recent in Europe.
Shan Shui is mostly made using a brush and ink instead of more traditional colors. Mountains, rivers, and waterfalls are the most popular subjects in this art style. Like many other kinds of Chinese painting, the genre draws heavily on Taoist ideas. It emphasizes the importance of human-nature connection. Oversized paintings are typically concentrated in the mountains, which have long been revered in China as the home of the Immortals.
Chinese artists are not attempting to depict what they observe in nature but rather what they think. Shanshui paintings should have three fundamental elements: routes, the threshold, and the heart. Paths leading to a threshold must hug the spectator and give a special welcome. They are never straight, which adds layers to the landscape. Finally, the core is a point of focus that determines the painting's meaning.
The Renaissance: Main Subjects
The painted landscape became essential in Western art during the Renaissance. Historical, religious, and mythical subjects were the main passions of European painters. Medieval art was primarily religious and highly regimented. Gradually, the focus shifted from religious subjects to landscapes. Furthermore, the Renaissance brought precision and a geometric approach to nature painting.
Landscape painting was finally established in the 16th century: backdrops for portraits, religious settings, hunting, or war scenes. In particular, Landscape with Charon Crossing the Styx by Joachim Patinier presents a visual triumph because the painter expertly mixes chilly hues and gives his environment a special depth.
The Artistic Varieties
Landscape painting, which gained prominence in the late 18th century, evolved via several modes. The Age of Enlightenment made it an artistic and aesthetic ideal. In addition to the religious background, creative perspectives and sentiments were presented as well. Consequently, figurative art became more imaginative and individualistic due to the influence of Romanticism. As a result, picturesque, pastoral, and sublime aesthetics were formed in this historical context.
Picturesque paintings depict the pure beauty of the landscape. The fear of destroying the natural environment prompts the concept of idealization combined with an appreciation of its splendors.
Pastoral colorful paintings portray people in balance with nature. In this way, they convey both the aesthetic beauty of the landscape and human activities. Specifically, John Constable’s Flatford Mill presents the peaceful domestication of nature at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
In contrast, sublime romantic paintings present the dark side of nature and humans’ incense before it. Romantic artists often used their experiences to convey a sublime atmosphere. For instance, An Avalanche in the Alp by Philip James De Loutherbourg sought to capture an experience of the infinite, creating an overwhelming sense of emptiness.
Impressionism Breaks With Tradition
Impressionism, which emerged in the late nineteenth century, significantly transformed fine art. The painters practiced in the open air, attempting to catch the fleeting expressions of the environment.
The impressionists infused their works with a fresh sensibility. They experimented with tone division, complementary hues, color contrasts, and, specifically, Claude Monet. For example, in his Impression soleil levant, the painter showed the ephemeral sensation perceived by the sunrise. Captivated by movement, nature, and modernity, he tried to capture this moment with the blurriness of contours and light play.
An Urban Approach to Landscape Painting
With the introduction of the industrial revolution, creative practices underwent rapid transformation and urbanization. As a result, there was a trend toward more conceptual and abstract painting in the mid-twentieth century. Cityscape paintings were more realistic and presented the dynamism of a metropolis.
The best example is Richard Estes' Sunday Afternoon in the Park, which presents a panoramic view of the park's lake. At first glance, it appears to be a photograph where the people’s figures create new contemporary art.
Landscape Art in the 21st Century
The modern-day scenic paintings have strengthened the transition from a figurative to an abstract approach. As a result, they are more independent in terms of artistic techniques, but not without aesthetic charm.
So, it is worth mentioning Cueillir des fruits by Edivaldo Barbosa, which reveals the rainforest's wealth and the wilderness's whirling vitality. Effective use of bright colors puts the accent on exotic beauty.
Dariusz Klimczak, another genre representative, draws his inspiration from surrealism. His Big Fish looks tricky and gives food for thought. The photographic precision of the artwork is charming, while the use of fantastic context adds depth and mystery to the image.
Given the long and diverse history of landscape painting, it is not unexpected that many painters continue to work in this genre today. The past has inspired many creators to produce large modern art, as proven by the enormous collection of current paintings.